Coach Ryu Joong-il, who will lead the national baseball team to the Hangzhou Asian Games in September, is deeply concerned.
Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes), 스포츠토토 who had been the mainstay of pitching and hitting, was injured and it became difficult to play, and left-hander Koo Chang-mo (26, NC Dinos), who was expected to be an ace, has rarely returned.
In an away game against the Lotte Giants at Sajik Stadium on the 22nd, Lee Jung-hoo was replaced due to pain in his left ankle during defense in the bottom of the eighth inning. Afterwards, he was diagnosed with damage to the left ankle extension zone at a close examination at the hospital and was on the operating table on the 27th.
Lee Jung-hoo’s participation in the Asian Games is expected to be virtually difficult as the expected rehabilitation period is three months.
Lee Jung-hoo’s departure is fatal for the national team. The final 24 players of the national team, announced on the 9th of last month, included only three outfielders, including Lee Jung-hoo, Jihoon Choi (SSG Landers), and Choi Won-joon (KIA Tigers).
Kang Baek-ho (KT Wiz) and Kim Hye-sung (Kiem) selected only three professional outfielders, judging that they can play outfield defense, but as Lee Jung-hoo is absent, they have to select additional outfielders.
Even if alternative resources are selected, Lee Jung-hoo’s vacancy feels great. Lee Jung-hoo is by far the best hitter in the league. Since his professional debut in 2017, Lee Jung-hoo has been a “single-goal guest” of the national team.
It is safe to say that there is no resource to completely replace Lee Jung-hoo, who won five gold medals in batting average, hits, RBIs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage last year and won the MVP of the regular season.
There are also concerns on the mound. Koo Chang-mo, who was selected with the intention of leaving the role of ace, is rarely returning.
Koo Chang-mo was replaced after complaining of discomfort while pitching against the LG Twins in Jamsil on the 2nd of last month, and was diagnosed with a left arm ulnar fatigue fracture as a result of a thorough examination.
At the time of the announcement of the final entry for the Hangzhou Asian Games national team, Koo Chang-mo had been sidelined due to injury, but Ryu Joong-il and the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Power Reinforcement Committee included Koo Chang-mo in the entry, believing that he could recover sufficiently by September.
However, Koo Chang-mo, who failed to return until the end of the first half, is still unable to take the mound in the first division. He was re-examined on the 21st, but the results showed that he did not recover completely, so he will be re-examined in three to four weeks.
If Koo Chang-mo fails to play due to injury, it will be a major negative factor for the national team’s mound, as he can play the role of an ace “if he is not sick.”
Koo Chang-mo joined the team only at the end of May due to his injury last year, but he recorded 11 wins, 5 losses and a 2.10 ERA in 19 games. Koo Chang-mo also wore the Taegeuk mark at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March this year.
There is no age limit in baseball events at the Asian Games, but KBO has set its own age limit system for the development of players’ skills and smooth generational change of the national team from this tournament. Of the 24 players, 21 were selected as players under the age of 25 or in their fourth year as professionals, while the remaining three were filled with wild cards.
In addition, considering that the professional baseball regular league will not be suspended during the Hangzhou Asian Games, only up to three players per team will be selected.
If Koo Chang-mo, who was selected for the national team as a wild card, fails to participate, it can be used to select an outfielder or pitcher. Of course, if it is possible to select players under the age of 25, they may not be used.
Currently, three players have already been selected from LG and KIA Tigers, and players from the two teams are excluded from the alternative selection.
Entries for the Asian Games can be replaced before October 1, when the tournament baseball game begins. The national team is scheduled to leave the country on Sept. 28, and a date for the call-up has yet to be set.
The national team’s coaches and the Korea Power Reinforcement Committee will carefully monitor the situation and select alternative resources.